My oldest son is ending his elementary school career this week and I've been taking some time to reflect on his life and on my experiences as a teacher and educator. The end of year celebrations are a huge time drain and struggle as a teacher, but as a parent, it's one of the few times we are able to peek into the world own kids live in on a daily basis.
A positive school culture is critical to the success of any school. As educators, we know that staying positive in the wake of planning, paperwork, meetings, grading, and all of the other administrative tasks is tough, especially when we got into this business because we love to work with students. It takes more effort than simply "putting on a happy face," as the musical number goes. The bigger question is always, "How do you do it?"
Whenever I think about personalized learning, I drift toward the ways adults learn. We know what we like, how we remember things, the topics that interest us, and the best ways to absorb new information. It's easy for us. I know I'm a kinesthetic learner so I recall things much better if I'm active. For example, I like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I'm running, doing yard work, or driving because I remember a lot more when I associate a passage or new bit of information with what I was doing at the time. But students don't have the years (decades) or experience to know what works for them—they're still going through trial and error and as adults, we need to give them every chance they can get to play around with their own learning.
'Tis the season for the social media firestorm of thankful messages, and, as cliché as it is, I think there is something to be said for pausing and being grateful. Yet it can get overwhelming. A few years ago, I did a new "thanks" message on my Facebook page for the 10 days leading up to Thanksgiving. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end, mostly because I felt the need to be entertaining while not bragging, which is a fine line to walk. Like many of you, I have so much to be thankful for, and I find it's easy to take it all for granted. And if you're like me, you save certain things to remember the good times. Maybe it's a wedding program, a special note from a student, the ticket stub from your first concert, or any other tangible item that you can post on a bulletin board or pull from a drawer when you need a pick-me-up and take a moment of pause.
As we wrap up the month looking at education for our youngest learners, there are many pieces of the equation to grapple with. Like most of you reading this, I cringe at the politicization of education issues that we often see online, on TV, or in other media formats. After all, there is no magic wand to wave for our systematic education woes. On the other hand, there is overwhelming research that shows early education and intervention work wonders on preventing bigger issues down the road.
As a classroom teacher, it was easy to take the time to reflect in the summer. Even though I often did curriculum work, taught summer school, or other did education-related jobs between the end of June and late August, I also spent a good deal of down time with my family to decompress. To be honest, I needed it. Badly. Life as a middle school teacher was a thrill ride that is like no other job I've held; I loved it, yet it wore me down. If you know a middle school teacher or principal, or if you are one, you know what I mean.
I was honored to host the most recent Whole Child Podcast where we talked about ways we reflect, recharge, and refresh as educators. One theme present in the podcast discussion and one we hear about over and over again is reading. While we encourage students (of all ages) to read often, as adults we find it difficult to find the time to read between full-time jobs, raising our children, and, heaven forbid, our own hobbies.
Summer seems to be a time where things slow down a bit. But I find that even as I write that sentence, I'm glancing at my calendar for the next meeting, what camp my kids are in this week, and what time I need to get them so they can go to the next activity. So maybe summer is a time where things don't necessarily slow down, but the schedule changes.